The Kosher Table
In the mood for some great Middle Eastern food? If you live in southern New Jersey, you are in luck. And if you’re from the Philadelphia area it’s worth a trip across the river to get it. I was curious about some raves I heard about Maxim’s Glatt Kosher Cuisine in Cherry Hill and wanted to taste for myself. In little more than the time it takes us to get into Center City, my husband and I had arrived at Maxim’s and were feasting on chef/owner Eti Cohen’s wonderful mix of Turkish, Moroccan, and Israeli-inspired specialties. Eti, who was born in Jerusalem, has run restaurants with her husband Rahamim in Tel Aviv, Yaffa, and New York. Fourteen years ago they opened Maxim’s at the Garden State Pavillion shopping center off Route 70.
We were seated in the clean, well-lit, casual dining room and were personally greeted by Eti with a plate of warm pita and a generous portion of perfectly seasoned tahina. We started off the meal with a bowl of Eti’s Red Lentil Soup ($3.50), so flavorful and satisfying on a cold night. I was intrigued by the rich combination of flavors. I usually have pretty good taste buds when it comes to sleuthing seasonings, but I just couldn’t figure out the mix of this intricately flavored soup. At the end of our dinner, when I subtly tried to guess, Eti just sat down with us, handed me her pen, and gave me the recipe! Other soups on the menu are Leek and Potato, Vegetable, and Chicken Noodle (all $3.50 a bowl).
As an appetizer we shared the Combination Salad, a platter of seven middle-eastern specialty salads that included Fried Eggplant (diced pan-fried eggplant with garlic and mild spices in tomato sauce), Mushroom Salad (mushrooms, sweet pepper, pickle, onion, parsley, olive oil and lemon), thick, garlicy Humus with Tahina, Maxim Eggplant (chopped eggplant with red and green pepper, hot pepper, garlic, and parsley), spicy Turkish Salad (chopped cooked tomatoes, scallions, parsley, and hot peppers), Israeli-style Potato Salad with carrots and peas, and the most creamy delicious homemade babaganoush we had ever tasted. Our "small" portion ($12.95; $16.95 for the large) was more than enough for two adults. The restaurant has a large appetizer menu which includes Kefte (sautéed meatballs of beef and leek, served with tahina); Stuffed Grape Leaves ($4.25); Felafel, either alone ($4.95) or served with humus ($5.25); Morrocan Cigars (filo dough filled with meat and deep fried; $4.25); Chicken Wings (8 for $6.95); and two varieties of Bourekas (spinach or potato; $2.95).
Kabobs are a house specialty—beef, chicken, or lamb—either enjoyed separately or as a Mixed Grill ($18.95). Alan had the Chicken Shish Kabob ($16.95), which was marinated and charcoal grilled—very tasty. My Baked Moussaka ($15.95) was not the usual rich layered casserole that I was expecting, but rather a simple, earthy combination of baked eggplant, fresh tomatoes, and ground beef in a light tomato sauce. All entrees are served with rice and salad, both of which were delicious. Eti cooks her rice with chicken broth and petite peas, and her salad is delicately dressed with fresh lemon. Other entrees we look forward to trying are Mergez, the restaurant’s homemade spicy kosher sausages; Chicken Portabella; Fire Grilled Whole Red Snapper (they were out of it the night we were there); and Eti’s Moroccan Salmon. Maxim’s also has several nice choices for the vegetarian, such as Pasta Primavera and a hot Vegetarian Platter.
For dessert we tried some excellent Baklava ($2.95). Other desserts on the menu include chocolate mousse, fresh fruit salad, assorted cakes, and daily baked desserts.
I hope to go back soon for lunch to sample one of the flame-gilled sandwiches (such as lamb sausage with grilled eggplant, tomato, homemade mayonnaise, lemon, and dill) or one of the many selections featured on the dinner menu at less than half the price. Parents will be pleased to know that Maxim’s also has a Kid’s Menu that includes the usual favorites (hot dog, $3.95; hamburger, fried chicken, or chicken nuggets ($5.95 each).
The restaurant has three washing stations and Visa, Mastercard, and are accepted. Maxim’s is also a great place to have a party. The restaurant boasts a party room suitable for parties of 20 to 150 people, and they also provide glatt kosher catering off-premises. For years Eti has been cooking Shabbat dinner and lunch every week for Mikveh Israel Synagogue, the oldest Sephardic congregation in Philadelphia, currently sharing its home on Indepence Mall with The National Museum of American Jewish History.
Is it worth the drive into Jersey for some great Middle-Eastern food? You betcha!
Until we eat again . . .
Lisa Kelvin Tuttle has professional experience in the gourmet, catering, and health-food fields, as well as being an experienced kosher camp cook. Her greatest pleasure, though, is cooking Shabbos dinner for family and friends. She resides with her husband, Alan, and sons Adam and Jeremy in Wynnewood.
Maxim’s Red Lentil Soup (Pareve)
This Moroccan flavoring technique is one that can be used not only with soups, but with poultry and vegetables as well.
Put lentils, bulgur, and cold water in a medium saucepan, cover pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until lentils split and become soft—about 30 minutes.
While the lentil mixture is cooking, put the remaining ingredients into the work bowl of a food processor. Using the metal chopping blade, process about 1 minute, until you have a thoroughly combined paste. Add the contents of the bowl to the pot with the lentils and simmer for an additional 30-40 minutes, adding more water if needed to achieve a thin, creamy consistency, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Eti Cohen’s Stuffed Zucchini (Meat or pareve)
Here’s a dish that Eti traditionally prepares each Shabbat for the folks at Congregation Mikveh Israel. She varies the vegetables—bell peppers, onions, or cabbage leaves can be used in place of the zucchini.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut off the stem ends of the zucchini and hollow out the seeds and some of the pulp using a melon-ball tool or paring knife.
Chop one of the onions and sauté along with the zucchini pulp in the olive oil until translucent.
In a bowl, combine the sautéed onion mixture, ground meat, rice, dill, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well with your hands or a spoon.
Fill each of the zucchini with the filling.
Grate the remaining onion and add it to the tomato sauce.
Spread half the sauce on the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish. Top with the stuffed zucchini, and cover lightly with the remaining sauce. Cover dish with foil and bake for 1 hour. Serve hot.
Pareve variation: For a delicious vegetarian dish, substitute 1 12-ounce package of meatless ground round (such as Yves Good Ground) for the ground meat and 1 cup cooked brown or white rice for the raw rice. You can also add grated carrot and celery or any other combination of vegetables to your filling.
All questions concerning the kashrut of the establishments featured in this column should be directed to your rabbi or rav.
Previously on The Kosher Table...